• MPS stock hits record low of just over 15 euro cents

MPS stock hits record low of just over 15 euro cents

Bank struggles after warnings of possible nationalization

(ANSA) - Milan, December 18 - The value of shares in Italy's scandal-ridden Monte dei Paschi di Siena (MPS) bank hit a record low of just over 15 euro cents on Wednesday, one day after its chairman warned the bank must recapitalize or face nationalization. After falling 4.8% before the close of trading on Tuesday, the sell off continued Wednesday morning, with MPS stock reaching a low of 0.1535 euros, below the previous record low of 0.1568 euros reached in July 2012. On Tuesday, MPS chairman Alessandro Profumo warned that shareholders must vote to recapitalize in January or see the firm nationalized. "We will work through December 30 to make the capital increase happen," Profumo told reporters. The recapitalization plan was recently approved by the European Union. The plan aims to help the bank return to profitability and avoid defaulting on government bailout loans, which would put it at risk of nationalization. Profumo was asked whether he would resign if the majority shareholder Monte dei Paschi Foundation succeeds in delaying the recapitalization vote until May, but said only that "the Foundation's vote at the shareholders meeting will be crucial. Let's see what happens then". MPS already had to recapitalize in 2012, when it lost over 2 billion euros in the first half of the year in the wake of rising yields and declining valuations on Italian government debt. It did so again in January 2013, when news went public that top management had entered into secret derivatives contracts with Deutsche Bank and Nomura to cover estimated losses of 500 million euros to 750 million euros in two of its divisions. The firm sparked fresh controversy this year when it was accused of misleading Italy's market regulator in October 2012, shortly before it received a 4.1-billion-euro State bailout. MPS is already at the center of a judicial investigation into its acquisition of smaller rival Antonveneta in 2008 as well as the derivatives trades the bank allegedly used to conceal losses. Former Chairman Giuseppe Mussari and former director general Antonio Vigni, who left in early 2012, are both under investigation for market manipulation, making false statements to the market and regulatory obstruction in relation to the Antonveneta deal and the derivatives trades. Both deny any wrongdoing. Founded in 1472 by the magistrate of the city state of Siena, MPS is the oldest surviving bank in the world and Italy's third-largest bank.